In Stevenson’s Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone (Mariner, Jan.), members of a family of killers gather at an Australian ski resort.
You tell readers in advance what will happen, sometimes even the page number on which it will happen, and list all the crucial clues before the reveal. What appeals to you about playing fair?
You make a sort of deal when you pick up a mystery with the writer that certain expectations are going to be met. The key of playing fair is that it feels good when you read it, even if you get tricked, instead of feeling betrayed. I just wanted that communal sense of fun—that the reader and I, as the author, are a team. I’m not trying to trick you, I’m playing fair, I want to satisfy you. And if being tricked is the way in which you are satisfied, fantastic. And if solving it is the way that you’re satisfied, also fantastic.
What’s Australian about your novel?
I wanted to make it as universal as possible, but I think the Australianism comes through in the black humor. One of my definite intents was that the comedy never out-balances the seriousness of these multiple murders, but one character doesn’t want to leave the resort where they take place because she won’t get her money back on the deposit.
How has your work for publishing houses and literary agencies shaped this novel?
Because I read so much, it gave me a really good understanding of what was out there, and what I wanted to put out there was something I’d never seen before. I thought, What can I do that I don’t think my publisher will agree to?—and then I did it. So I just put out all the ideas that I thought, That’s too hard—no publisher will let me take that risk. At the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t really know what book publishing was going to look like at the end of the pandemic. So I had sort of a why not attitude to what I would put in this book.
How does writing mystery fiction connect with being a comedian?
I loved mystery fiction as a kid. But professionally speaking, I started working as a stand-up comic, which I actually think gave me a lot of skills that I could then put into mystery fiction when I decided to write, because jokes are all about hiding the answers and surprising audiences. And so, I already knew how to hide a plot twist, and how to deliver suspense and surprise, because that’s how you get a laugh.